Top 10 Albums of 2014: Sharon Van Etten, New Pornographers, Alvvays and More

Sharon Van Etten. (Photo by Dusdin Condren)

Sharon Van Etten. (Photo by Dusdin Condren)

Now that we’re on to 2015 already, here are my top 10 albums of 2014, as determined by what I listened to and loved the most.

It’s not the most wide-ranging tally (I said that about last year’s list, too, come to think of it, though I’m not sure why in retrospect). It seemed like a pretty bleak year for hip-hop. I liked the Shabazz Palaces album “Lese Majeste,” but not enough to come back to it often. Ghostface Killah’s “36 Seasons” wasn’t as gripping and tightly focused as his best work. And though Run the Jewels earned plenty of acclaim for “Run the Jewels 2,” including the No. 1 spot on Pitchfork’s best-albums list, it didn’t grab me.

By contrast, my top pick — Sharon Van Etten’s latest, “Are We There” — dug in deep. As I wrote in this review for Paste, “Van Etten’s fourth album marks the true arrival of a singer who’s been on her way for a long time, and thinking of her as anything less than a career artist is certainly a vast underestimation.” 

Along with albums by the venerable Leonard Cohen and the veteran performers Spoon (review), Tweedy (review) and the New Pornographers (feature story), I was enchanted by the debut releases from Alvvays (which I wrote about here) and the Wytches (who I covered here).

Here, then, is my list:

1. Sharon Van Etten, “Are We There” (Jagjaguwar)

2. The New Pornographers, “Brill Bruisers” (Matador)

3. Alvvays, “Alvvays” (Polyvinyl)

4. The Wytches, “Annabel Dream Reader” (Partisan)

5. Leonard Cohen, “Popular Problems” (Columbia)

6. First Aid Kit, “Stay Gold” (Columbia)

7. Perfume Genius, “Too Bright” (Matador)

8. Spoon, “They Want My Soul” (Loma Vista)

9. St. Vincent, “St. Vincent” (Loma Vista)

10. Tweedy, “Sukierae” (dBpm)

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